Floating bridge threatens to sink Likoni cable cars plan

cable cars

Cable cars in La Paz, Bolivia. With the construction of a floating bridge at the Likoni crossing channel, the fate of the cable cars now hangs in the balance. FILE PHOTO | AFP

The future of the highly publicised Likoni cable cars is now uncertain following the construction of a floating bridge at the channel.

The cable car project, which was to be undertaken by Trapos Limited, encountered a lot of false starts. It was initially meant to start in 2017 and even received Cabinet approval.

But with the construction of the Sh1.9 billion floating bridge at the Likoni crossing channel, the fate of the cable cars now hangs in the balance.

Transport Principal Secretary Solomon Kitungu, however, says the construction of the bridge is not a complete substitute of the cable cars but added that the decision on whether to continue or not will be made by the sponsors.

“The cable car is not necessarily to be substituted by the floating bridge. However, project sponsors will have to respond accordingly. If they find out that there is no market then they might not go on with it,” said Mr Kitungu.

He said the cable cars might still be put up for the purposes of tourism as such projects are not only used for transport but also for leisure.

The management of Trapos Limited did not respond to phone calls and text queries from Shipping and Logistics.

The ambitious project was e to be put up across the busy Likoni Channel. The pre-construction works would involve geological survey and ground tests of the landing stations site and masts would be built on the two sides of the channel.

Early this year, senators waved a red flag over the plan, saying it was not viable.

The Roads and Transport Committee of the Senate in a report tabled before the House said the proposed user charges of Sh20 were not sustainable.

The Senate committee also questioned the capacity of Trapos Limited to undertake the project and directed the Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) to cite similar projects the company had undertaken successfully.

Likoni Cable Express was to be built under the public-private partnership between the state and an Australian consortium and was projected to take between 12 to 18 months to complete.

The cable system was to have a total of 28 cabins carrying a maximum of 5,500 passengers per hour cross the channel in three minutes and 40 seconds.

The consortium was expected to exclusively manage and operate the cable cars for 25 years to recoup the initial investment before handing it back to the State.

One of the key objectives of the project upon completion was to offer a safer means of transport across the channel and create more space for vehicles on the old and the dilapidated ferry.

The floating bridge, which is currently at the tail end of construction at the channel, is being put up by the China Roads and Bridges Company (CRBC) and is expected that the facility will be open for use starting mid this month.

CRBC is set to officially hand over the project to the government once it is completed.

The bridge is expected to help deal with at least 50 percent of pedestrian congestion at the Likoni channel.

KeNHA says the crossing bridge, which is one of its kind in the country, will be operational 24 hours.

The move to have an alternative means of crossing was occasioned by rampant cases of ferries stalling at the section of the ocean, causing a lot of inconveniences for people using the channel.